More on the Haynes-Beylor Murder

Posted on October 21, 2008 by


I’m back! Now it’s time to reflect on my post of 3 October.

When I posted the story, I was thinking two things.

First, as a stand-alone story, how does this tale of the Haynes-Beylor murder compare to the way that some other folks like to tell history. I take, as an example, Cisco’s book, War Crimes Against Southern Civilians. What is the purpose of such books and what sort of approach is taken to accomplish the objectives of the author? I see the approach as “shock history.” Cisco’s book as story-telling (sans historical analysis) either reinforces existing animosities or creates new animosities (against those bad ol’ “Yankees”) based on the manner in which these tales tap into emotions (even some 145 plus years after the events). Had I left the Haynes-Beylor Murder online without any follow-up, I would be guilty of the same “crime against historical analysis” (sorry, I couldn’t resist). It just happened to be that, because of my preparations for masters comps, this post stood as “shock history” for over two weeks without any follow-up! Without the historical analysis, the story of the murder is shocking and taps into our emotions as humans. I did, however, leave a note that there would be more to follow.

Second, my telling of the story, as I made clear because of the note that more was to follow, continues with an analysis of “memory.” The story, as I related it, came from two different sources, both Union officers. Denison wrote his book in 1876; Sawyer wrote his account in July 1862, within months of the event. A third account, which I did not mention in my original telling of the story, fell into my lap (so to speak), when reviewing, once again, all of the photocopies I had made of the Luray newspaper.

This version, written in the 1930s, was the story as remembered by locals. A glaring difference is that the story as told by locals, remembered that Haynes [aka “Haines”] and Beylor were hung, not shot. Nevertheless, the story goes…

Years ago or at a time during the trying Civil War days in this county, two men, by the name of Beylor and Haines were hanged in the neighborhood of what is known as the ‘Boneyard Woods,’ a short distance southwest of Luray. It is said that their ‘crime’ was being sympathizers with the Northern or Yankee cause in those troublous days. It is a well known fact that these men were executed at this spot and the remarkable part of this story is brought out in a conversation with the late William H. Sours, some years ago, by a representative of this paper [Page News & Courier]. Mr. Sours for many years was a well-known shoemaker and farmer living on the headwaters of Mill Creek. He relates that the spot where they were hanged has been bare of any vegetation since the fatal day. He says that it was a desolate and forbidding spectacle. Lightning during many of the summers that followed appeared to take vengeance on the trees that stood within a hundred yards of the spot of the hanging. Lightining for years continued to take toll of the trees in that locality. Then Nature took the final steps, rotting away the stumps of what had been lone sentinels. In those days the ‘Boneyard Woods’ ran from the extreme northern part of the timber tract not far from the present homes of Kirby Aleshire and Vernon Broyles. The exact spot where they were executed is not known by anyone living today, but Mr. Sours once declared that it was near the Luray-Mill Creek backroad. The deplorable affair is rather hazy, even in the minds of our oldest inhabitants – some say the hanging took place in the woods then near the present Andrew Jackson store in West Luray. It is thought that this tragedy occured during the early part of the hostilities Between the States. 

Comparing the three stories leaves us with some more to think about.

Yet more to follow tomorrow.